On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," acclaimed Houston bar owner Bobby Heugel joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his various businesses: Anvil Bar & Refuge, Better Luck Tomorrow, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, The Pastry War, The Nightingale Room, and the OKRA Charity Saloon. In a lengthy conversation, the two men hit on a wide variety of topics, including mezcal's increased popularity, the status of downtown Houston's bar scene, and how the first years have gone at both Better Luck Tomorrow and Tongue-Cut Sparrow.
After Sandler expresses his opinion that small, neighborhood focused breweries like Holler and Baileson might represent a new spin on the icehouse, Heugel shares his thoughts on what's missing from Houston's bar scene.
I think those places aren't trying to take the icehouse model and update it with craft beer. I think instead they're mimicking places like San Diego. I like when that happens in Houston in some ways — I travel a lot and try to stay updated on different concepts and what people are doing around the country and bringing some of those ideas home — but I also wish we didn't mimic places as much as we tend to in Houston in the bar scene. I wish that there were more of those original, 'I just want to do it for this reason.' I was talking a friend of mine in Oaxaca, he's from San Francisco, and he said his favorite bars when he moved to San Francisco were weird places with crazy personalities behind the bar like the Zam Zam Room. He said, 'nobody calls a bar the Zam Zam Room anymore.' I do think we're missing some of that 'why the hell not?'
Stick around for the lightening round, to hear which band temporarily spoiled Heugel's desire to see concerts.
Prior to Heugel's interview, Sandler and co-host Mary Clarkson discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Reef's imminent reopening, Jinya Ramen's plans to open in The Heights, and the closure of Washington Avenue sushi restaurant Kukuri. In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler shares his first impressions of Fig & Olive and some notes from his recent trip to Dallas.